Born: March 11, 1964 in Tampere, Finland
The simple way to describe Helminen's monumental contributions to the game both to his country and international hockey: By the time he played his final game for Finland in 2002, he had been part of every Olympic and World Championship medal team in Finland's history. Every. Single. One.
Still not enough? Consider then that Helminen played in more Olympics than any other hockey player – six – and represented his country at the senior level more times than anyone in the game's history – 331. He may be the 15th Finn to be inducted into the IIHF Hall of Fame, but probably none before him from his country has done as much for the game.
Helminen first made a name for himself at the 1984 U20 Worlds when he set a scoring record with eleven goals and 22 points, leading Finland to a silver medal. So impressive was the 19-year-old that he was named to the country's Olympic team the next month. His excellent season with both Ilves Tampere and the national team shot his NHL value sky high, and the New York Rangers drafted him 35th overall in the summer of 1984.
After one more season in Finland, he decided to try the NHL, but after playing for three teams in as many years he decided to move back to Europe, establishing himself as a star in Sweden's Elitserien and becoming the first non-Swede to win the scoring title with Malmö (in 1992-93). He also led the team to two league championships.
During this time Helminen also played at the 1988 Olympics, a watershed moment in Finnish hockey history. The team won a silver medal, its first ever medal in hockey, and Helminen was a huge part of the team's success.
He was not the biggest player or the strongest or the fastest, and he didn't have a laser shot that made him famous. Instead, the centreman did everything incredibly well. Good on faceoffs and a coach's delight for his skilled play at both ends of the ice, he was invaluable in the last minutes of key games and was a leader on ice and off.
Helminen moved home in 1996 and played the last 12 years of his pro career with Ilves. He captained the team the last nine years before retiring in 2008 at age 44, but it was in a Suomi sweater that he thrived. He was a key player in the team's magical run at the 1995 World Championship in Stockholm, when Finland won gold for the first time in its history after beating rivals Sweden, 4-1, in the deciding game. Helminen had scored the winning goal against the Czechs in the semi-finals.
In all, he won that historic gold, four silvers, and a bronze in ten World Championships, and a silver and two bronze medals at the Olympics. When he played in 2002 at Salt Lake, his sixth Games, he established a record that might decades from now be equaled, but will surely never be bettered.>>